The HCD 10 Interior Designer: Kari Thorsen
Lobby in CHI Franciscan Health's St. Anthony Hospital in Pendleton, Ore.
Hallway and lobby of Seattle Cancer Care Alliance's Bezos Family Immunotherapy Clinic, in Seattle
Halkin Mason Photography
Patient room in University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Stead Family Children's Hospital, in Iowa City, Iowa
Living room inside the behavioral health unit at Providence Health & Services' Swedish Medical Center-Ballard, in Seattle
Examples of circadian lighting used inside a behavioral health unit at Swedish Medical Center-Ballard
Kari Thorsen LEED AP, Green Belt Lean Certification for Facilities Design, principal, ZGF Architects LLP (Seattle)
WHO SHE IS: With 13 years of experience leading the planning and interior design of many of ZGF’s largest healthcare projects, Thorsen is well-versed in gathering input from multiple project stakeholders to identify the design solutions that will best address their needs. But it’s her conversations with patients, families, and staff that serve as her biggest source of inspiration. “Recently a teenage patient shared that she often felt talked over and couldn’t be a part of the care conversation. She asked that patient beds be placed in a direction that allowed her to engage,” she says. “I hope to find more moments like this to create powerful design solutions that keep patients at the center of care and make them feel like they have a voice.” With a focus on pediatric and oncology facilities, she’s led the firm’s interior design team on several noteworthy projects, including CHI Franciscan Health’s St. Anthony Hospital in Pendleton, Ore., and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance’s Bezos Family Immunotherapy Clinic in Seattle.
YEAR IN REVIEW: Thorsen frequently uses “community” as a central theme in her designs to create calming care environments focused on the needs of patients, families, and staff. For example, at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics Stead Family Children’s Hospital in Iowa City, Iowa, which opened in December 2016, she led the interior design of the new 540,000-square-foot children’s hospital, which included a design concept and environmental graphics program that centered on the concept of a quilt to tell the story of Iowa’s ethos. The graphics feature four Iowan scenes—farmlands, wetlands, woodlands, and prairies—that are used in wayfinding throughout the large facility, from the public spaces to each patient unit. She’s also a champion of biophilic design, incorporating daylighting and an ambient lighting strategy to support patients’ circadian rhythms at a new behavioral health unit at Swedish Medical Center-Ballard, which opened in Seattle in May 2016. Leading the project’s interior design team, Thorsen also incorporated a materials palette that mimics patterns in nature, such as a mosaic tile cladding for the columns that simulates the relationship between the sky and earth by shifting from lighter to darker colors from top to bottom.
WHAT’S NEXT: Looking to the next 13 months, Thorsen has several projects in the works, including an 895,000-square-foot expansion and renovation at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center in Cincinnati, a 36,600-square-foot outpatient clinic for Seattle Children’s Hospital’s North Clinic in Everett, Wash., and a clinical tower expansion for Seattle Cancer Care Alliance in Seattle.